Stand Your Ground Law
Despite possessing one of the highest standards of living in the world, the United States is still undoubtedly home of some the worst and most violent criminals. The United States is home of the greatest prison population, and also has the distinction of accumulating the most guns and gun deaths in the developed world. Thus, the need for Americans to protect themselves from the likes of assaults, robberies and other acts of violence is completely understandable, leading to legislation that protects a citizen’s right to defend themselves. Still, despite the establishment of these kind of laws, there are still grey areas which have lead to controversy regarding such rules. One the most prominently controversial laws geared towards a citizen’s self defense is the stand your ground law, a law that allows for the use of lethal force in the face of “adequate provocation”, as opposed to retreating to safety.
What is Stand Your Ground Law
In the United States, a stand your ground law authorizes a citizen’s right to protect themselves from a perceived threat. The law states that no individual is legally obliged to retreat from a place where he or she has a lawful right to be. Additionally, the law sanctions the use of lethal force in the presence of an immediate threat, In short, the law allows for a potential victim of violence to “stand their ground” in the presence of a potential threat. It is important to note that this law is not simply concerned with the use of deadly force, but force in general. (“Stand-your-ground Law.”).
Duty to Retreat
Stand your ground laws eliminated the longstanding establishment of “duty to retreat” laws. These laws state that an individual outside his or her home under imminent threat of personal harm or even death has a duty to retreat from said threat as much as possible before the employment of force, in an effort to defend oneself. Some states in the US still retain such laws (“Stand Your Ground Laws – FindLaw.”).
However, the emergence of gun rights movements, and gun rights advocate groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) have since contributed to stand your ground laws to be enacted in over 20 states, starting with Florida in 2005. Although one’s right to defend themselves should be a concept all americans can agree on, the rush to adopt these laws by lawmakers and gun advocates have come under fire for authorizing the use of deadly force in instances where it may not be necessary (Winkler, Adam. “What the Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law Says.”).
The true purpose of stand your ground laws are essentially to eliminate the prosecution of people who are legitimately defending themselves from a threat, particularly those who chose not to retreat from said threat. In short, these laws function to remove any confusion associated with an individual attempting to defend his or herself. In many states, a claim of self defense under stand your ground laws grants an individual immunity from prosecution altogether. States that have stand your ground laws, or variations of such laws include: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington and West Virginia (Currier, Cora. “The 24 States That Have Sweeping Self-Defense Laws Just Like Florida’s.”).
State your ground laws are not uniform, however, from state to state as many states that have enacted the law still retain elements of “duty to retreat laws” when employing lethal force, while others remove the need to retreat under any circumstance.
States with Stand Your Ground laws differ on whether the law applies to instances involving lethal force, with some states retaining the duty to retreat when lethal force is involved and others removing the duty to retreat under all circumstances (“Stand Your Ground Laws – FindLaw.”).
Trayvon Martin Case…
Many Americans were introduced to the term stand your ground law after the death of African American teen Trayvon Martin, at the hands of a hispanic neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, who invoked the law in his defense. On the night of February 26, 2012 in Sanford, Florida, Zimmerman saw Martin on his way back from a trip to a corner store and suspected him of engaging in criminal behavior. Despite being instructed by police to stand down, Zimmerman proceeded to stalk Martin resulting in a violent confrontation between the two that ultimately resulted in the shooting death of Martin. The confrontation eventually went viral sparking outrage, as Zimmerman was not even arrested or required to submit a toxicology report, apparently under the grounds of Florida’s stand your ground law. Zimmerman’s defense argued that on that night, it was Martin who confronted Zimmerman and began pummelling him, entitling Zimmerman to use deadly force, despite having instigated their confrontation. Consequently, many Americans viewed stand your ground laws as facilitating a culture of would be murderers to not be brought up on charges for their actions (Winkler, Adam. “What the Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law Says.”).
Stand Your Ground Law Statistics
Since first being enacted in Florida in 2005, the use of stand your ground laws have been employed with unexpected regularity, in various ways, to free what some might consider killers and violent attackers. Even more discouraging are the surprising outcomes of cases where stand your ground rule is claimed as a defense, and the circumstances that would appear to influence such outcomes. In short, cases with similar circumstances often yield shockingly different results suggesting that such cases are less dependent on the facts of the case and more influenced by who you are, who you killed, and where the case was decided (Hundley, Kris. “Florida Stand Your Ground Law Yields Some Shocking Outcomes Depending on How Law Is Applied.”).
In the most comprehensive effort of its kind, The Tampa Bay Times identified almost 200 stand your ground cases and their outcomes, employing the use of media reports, court records and dozens of interviews with prosecutors and defense attorneys across the state. According to the study, the use of stand your ground laws to avoid prosecution have been extremely successful in doing so, as almost 70 percent of those individuals have gone free (Hundley, Kris. “Florida Stand Your Ground Law Yields Some Shocking Outcomes Depending on How Law Is Applied.”).
Additionally, there are many cases that suggest socially discriminatory biases influence such judicial decisions, as stand your ground defenses are more likely to be successful if the victim is African American. According to the study, 73 percent of individuals who killed an African American faced no penalty for their actions. In contrast, only 59 percent of individuals who killed a victim who was of caucasian descent went free. Many skeptics of the law, and even those in favor of it believe that the law is being used in ways that legislators did not intend them to (Hundley, Kris. “Florida Stand Your Ground Law Yields Some Shocking Outcomes Depending on How Law Is Applied.”).
Many believe that a mockery has been made of the stand your ground laws, which were established to protect individuals who were under the threat of bodily harm. Instead, according to the Tampa Bay Times study, many of the cases in which these laws are employed are used to see an aggressor set free. In one case, a man killed two unarmed people and faced no penalty. Even more troubling, another individual shot a man while he lay defenseless on the ground. He too went free. Other cases involve people who shot individuals in the back, while nearly a third of the cases associated with the study involved a defendant who initiated the confrontation, shot an unarmed person or pursued the victim. Such statistics only add to the outrage associated with the use of the law which appears to be letting violent and unstable citizens to face no penalty for acting irrationally (Hundley, Kris. “Florida Stand Your Ground Law Yields Some Shocking Outcomes Depending on How Law Is Applied.”).
In conclusion, stand your ground laws function to protect American citizens in over 20 states from facing prosecution for defending themselves. However, many question the legitimacy of claims of self defense in a number of cases where stand your ground laws are employed. Thus, many believe that such laws are enabling for the sanctioning of trigger happy, shoot first, ask questions last attitudes in the presence of even the most modest confrontations. All in all, a law that was originally employed to combat domestic abuse (as retreating in one’s old house is an unreasonable request) has spiraled into a defense that has allowed the likes of murders, robbers and drug dealers to go free, while still allowing those with legitimate cases of self defense to not be treated as criminals. #Share#Share #Share #Comment #Comment
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“Stand-your-ground Law.” Sussle. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2015. <http://sussle.org/t/Stand-your-ground_law>.
“Stand Your Ground Laws – FindLaw.” Findlaw. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2015. <http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-law-basics/stand-your-ground-laws.html/>.
Winkler, Adam. “What the Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law Says.” The New York Times. N.p., 2 Oct. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/03/21/do-stand-your-ground-laws-encourage-vigilantes/what-the-florida-stand-your-ground-law-says>.
Currier, Cora. “The 24 States That Have Sweeping Self-Defense Laws Just Like Florida’s.” Top Stories RSS. N.p., 22 Mar. 2012. Web. 09 Dec. 2015. <http://www.propublica.org/article/the-23-states-that-have-sweeping-self-defense-laws-just-like-floridas>.
Hundley, Kris. “Florida Stand Your Ground Law Yields Some Shocking Outcomes Depending on How Law Is Applied.” Tampa Bay Times. N.p., 1 June 2012. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.<http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/florida-stand-your-ground-law-yields-some-shocking-outcomes-depending-on/1233133>.